Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Mount Clutter

by Sarah Lindsay

“Lindsay is blessed with the sort of X-ray vision a philosopher would kill for. . . . She uncovers a curio cabinet of delights that illuminates, as if from within, the intricate links between people and their origins. . . . Her poems open doors to other worlds and other ways of seeing.” –Melanie Rehak, The New York Times Book Review

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 112
  • Publication Date October 23, 2002
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-3944-3
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $14.00

About The Book

The stirring follow-up to Primate Behavior, Mount Clutter is the new poetry collection from the acclaimed 1997 National Book Award finalist

Sarah Lindsay’s poems have been hailed as ‘dark-edged . . . with a buoying sense of respect–for the different, the unexpected and the challenging” (Publishers Weekly). Lindsay’s new collection, Mount Clutter, is the product of an immensely original and exhilarating poetic sensibility, ranging wide across a highly distinctive imaginary landscape. In a voice that is distinctly her own, Lindsay probes the uncharted territories of history’s curious little corners, reanimating obscure accounts of strange discoveries and bizarre scientific findings. A stunning sequence on the discovery of the Bufo Islands imagines what it means to encounter something as yet unnamed, unknown to human history, but bursting with possibilities. Lindsay similarly breathes new life into literary classics and ancient Greek myths, taking, for example, the well-known motif of Orpheus’s descent into the underworld and transforming it into a hauntingly resonant portrait of the vicissitudes of loss.

Lindsay’s poems exude an extraordinary ability of fusing the outlandish and the little-known historical minutiae with the unmistakably familiar markers of the human experience. Mount Clutter is a remarkably sustained and self-assured performance.


“Lindsay is blessed with the sort of X-ray vision a philosopher would kill for. . . . She uncovers a curio cabinet of delights that illuminates, as if from within, the intricate links between people and their origins. . . . Her poems open doors to other worlds and other ways of seeing.” –Melanie Rehak, The New York Times Book Review

“[Mount Clutter] outshines even her brilliant first one. . . . [Lindsay] adds surprising, completely unexpectable ways of considering both thought and data.” –Fred Chappell, Raleigh News & Observer

“Lindsay’s second book is the closest thing to a sincerely new brand of poetry to come along in quite some time.” –William Neumire, Pedestal Magazine

“Lindsay’s poetry vibrates with life, mystery, myth, relationships, and imaginings.” –Jeri Lynn Crippen, Lovin” Life

“An editor extraordinaire, [Lindsay] writes tightly. Indeed, her style resembles a spider web– taut, yet delicate. Using words to form an enticing pattern, she swiftly entraps the minds of her readers.

This Greensboro poet is noted for her haunting descriptions, but it is her skillful connection of images of the exterior world to the workings of the interior mind that supplies genuine relevance.” –Sandra Redding, Our State Down Home In North Carolina

‘readers who had the good luck to discover the daring scope of subject, the brilliance of image and language of Sarah Lindsay’s first book, Primate Behavior, will not be surprised to find, in Mount Clutter, further ranges: poem after poem startling, powerful, authentic, and each of them, as in her first collection, refracting her underlying metaphor in which the “other” world, of nonhuman life, of places remote in time or some other dimension, of myth and its apparitions, again and again reveals the unrepeatable inner life that is our own. She is a true original, and the authority of her lines makes her complex subject a vision that beckons the reader after it into unexpected recognitions.” –W. S. Merwin

“Are you one of the many to whom poems seem primarily an outpouring of their writers’ feelings? Read Sarah Lindsay! Her work demands a much more rich, thoughtful, and accurate definition of poetry. Her feeling eye has looked at the gorgeous clutter, mystery and imaginings of the planet, from prehistory to the present, and has preserved for us, in burnished words, a generous new book full of them. Her “imaginary gardens’ have ‘real toads in them,” as Marianne Moore would surely agree. Her pages, like her spreading truffles, cause one to “take a few deep breaths and, unaware, / begin to love the world.”” –Mona Van Duyn

“Erudite and whimsical. . . . Further evidence of Lindsay’s imaginative scope and wide-ranging interests. . . . [Her poems] challenge us to think and while we’re thinking enter a world made new by her wonderful and original vision. Lindsay is a poet of the first order.” –Barbara Lingerfelt, Raleigh News and Record

Praise for Primate Behavior:

‘sarah Lindsay’s molten imagination burns new channels for poetry.” –Kay Ryan

“As a poet Sarah Lindsay is fearless. Subjects others would find unpromising or intimidating she forms into poems of eerie, spectral beauty.” –Fred Chappell


Olduvai Gorge Thorn Tree

He kept dreaming of a tree, dreaming
of a tree, dreaming of a tree
and its sound like a hush,
and it seemed he could open
his mouth when he woke and make the others
know something they didn’t already know,

his tree. But he woke and he couldn’t.
He kept thinking of a tree. He made a tree
of his arms and called to the others,
but all he could say, all they could say,
was tree, not that one, no, not here,
tree. They were hungry, shrugged and went on.

Later a leopard dragged him some distance
and left him on the remains of his back,
his plucked face tilted up, and a seed
fell on the stub of his tongue
in his open mouth.

Took root,
sent a finger between his teeth

that parted his jaws with its gradual thickness
and lifted its arms full of leaves that fed
on what was in his braincase
and mixed with the sky, and made
a sound in the wind that was
almost what he wanted.

Mount Clutter

One day when the planet was idly
pressing stegosaurs in her scrapbook,
she threw out a whole plateau
of souvenirs from the Ordovician, on impulse.
She’d long since run out of places to put things–
one reason these organelles are crammed into cells–
and naturally disorder breeds disorder:
you get distracted, you put down that scribbled
fossilized note about Martian microbes,
and once you set a tectonic plate on top of it,
you may never find it again. Though all kinds
of stuff will turn up while you’re looking.

It’s a realistic carelessness
that lets prize bones weather out of a cliff and crumble,
that shrugs when a secret cave on the coast,
with paintings of hands, great auks, and well-fed horses,
is sniffed out by the rough wet nose of the sea.
You can’t expect your mother to save
your comic books forever, much less
her dried corsages,
snakeskins, pinecones, yearbooks, report cards,
and all the photo albums
from her life before you, on the chance
you might take an interest someday.

Be glad there’s an attic, and a bunch of keys
that might fit something. Over here,
a sack of marbles she won off the neighbor boys, a sea-green
pillbox hat with a veil, a whole drawerful
of crinoids, a petrified forest, stromatolites . . . and here,
wrapped in the sports page from August third, 500 million b.c.,
it’s the Cambrian worm Insolicorypha psygma:
dozens of bristles, a head divided in two,
if that was indeed the head. Once common as pennies;
now this is the only one. Go on rummaging,
brushing off dust, though you may find later
that it was the dust you wanted.

What if you don’t find
the Missing Link, the Conclusive Proof
of that cherished hypothesis you cooked up
along with the instant soup on your hot plate
amid the books and shirts and notes and dishes?
Just see what she left you, without being asked:
opposable thumbs, cerebral cortex,
cuneiform, a recipe for piecrust,
and, in this shadowy corner, the rock itself,
prehistoric, prenotional Mount Clutter,
on which Occam’s razor, like your inherited pocketknife,
is repeatedly wrecked and whetted.

Copyright ” 2002 by Sarah Lindsay. Reprinted with permission from Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.